NHL Drops Puck In London This Weekend

By Andrew Lippe

The National Hockey League will drop the puck on the 2007/2008 season across the pond with two games set for London’s O2 Arena. The NHL regular season takes off this weekend in London. And it will do more than kickoff the NHL season.

“This is the arena’s very first sporting event,” says Adam Acone, NHL VP of Broadcasting and Programming. That said, being new and cutting edge did not mean being easy for camera installation and cabling. The 02 Arena is primarily used for concerts so there were no standard camera positions built for sports broadcasts.

“We had to completely cable the whole building,” Acone explains. The NHL also had to build a press box for all the announce positions.

For the game feed itself, the NHL scheduled two games between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, both taking place Saturday and Sunday at 5pm local time. The NHL is producing the game feed and it will then be made available to broadcast partners around the world.

The NHL hired Gord Cutler, NHL Network executive producer, is overseeing the production that features a scaled-down technical team. “We brought six technicians over from North America, all of whom are hockey-knowledgeable technicians,” Acone says. The NHL also hired about 10 to 15 local technicians to help produce the event in PAL HD.

The production will rely on an NEP Visions OB truck outfitted with Thomson cameras and Canon lenses. By handling the production for all networks TV partners only had to send over their commentators as their production crews remained in their respective U.S. studios. On Saturday the game will air on CBC in Canada, and HDNet and FSN West in the U.S. The Sunday contest will air on the NHL Network in Canada and the Versus network in the U.S.

”We are sending back clean video,” says Acone. “There are no graphics at all.” For Saturday’s game, for instance, the audio is sent on four separate paths: one is the international sound feed and the other three paths are the three networks covering the game. Once the networks receive the audio and video each network can add their representative graphics. CBC and Versus both upgraded to HD last season and CBC will have its first full season of HD this year helped by the installation of five EVS HD servers.